The era in German history known as the Weimar Republic lasted just a few years from 1918 to 1933, but it’s impact on world history and culture is still felt today. The unstable political situation, combined with rapid inflation, contributed to the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. Amidst the political chaos, the arts flourished. The period saw the establishment of the Bauhaus and Dada artistic movements. Novelist Christopher Isherwood captured the underground nightlife scene in his famed The Berlin Stories, which would serve as the basis for the Cabaret musical and film. On the theater front, Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill penned The Threepenny Opera. The musical introduced the standard “Mack the Knife” as well as “Pirate Jenny,” a song Bob Dylan cited in his memoir as an inspiration for his songwriting.
The New York-based cabaret singer Rachelle Garniez channels the spirit of the era on the opening track of her new covers album Gone To Glory with a rendition of Motörhead’s “Killed by Death.” With its klezmer-inspired groove and theatrical presentation, the cover could have been right at home in either The Threepenny Opera or Cabaret. On the album, Garniez pays homage to many recently departed musical souls with a quirky blend of covers from a wide range of artists, including Prince, Glen Campbell, David Bowie, Della Reese and Mel Tillis.
Motörhead (whose frontman Lemmy Kilmister passed away in 2015) first released “Killed by Death” as a new track on the 1984 compilation album No Remorse. The song is a textbook example of the band’s proto-thrash metal. The opening lyrics might have served as inspiration for Spinal Tap, had the rockumentary about the faux British rockers not come out six months earlier. “If you squeeze my lizard/I’ll put my snake on you/ I’m a romantic adventurer/And a reptile too.” With guitars, bass and drums all firing, the band constantly reminds you that, “The only time I’m easy’s when I’m/Killed by death/ Killed by death/Killed by death, come on!” Okay, so these guys were not in danger of winning any poet laureate awards.
Garniez opens the “Killed By Death” cover with a piano and strings intro that quotes the music of “Hotel California” in tribute to Glenn Frey. Later on she quotes the iconic sax line of George Michael’s “Careless Whisper” later on. Many tracks on the album similar offer secondary tributes worked into the main cover: the Princess Leia theme for Carrie Fisher, the Brady Bunch theme for Florence Henderson, etc.
Following the intro, a lightly stepping accordion comes in, then drums. Garniez whispers the opening lyrics, then slowly builds up to the song’s refrain. “As simple as its lyrics are, I find them great,” Garniez said in a statement. “This is gonna be what happens: You’ll get killed by death. That’s it.” In her characterization, death comes across as a trickster, excited to be invited to the party. Whether we appreciate his visit or not is another story entirely.
As part of her promotion for the new album, Garniez released a video for her cover of Glen Campbell’s “Rhinestone Cowboy” that features her walking the streets of New York. Watch it below.
Click here to listen to more Motörhead covers